What: The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres will play three games in the “MLB Mexico Series” this weekend in Monterrey.
Why it matters: Much like the Puerto Rico Series in April, the Mexico games represent an embracing of the Latino influence on baseball and a signal to marketers that the sport is thriving across Latin America.
Fans of a certain age will remember a time, more than 35 years ago, when “Fernandomania” ruled the land. Like a comet out of Navojoa, Mexico, Fernando Valenzuela burst onto the Major League Baseball (@MLB) scene in 1981, a thousand or so miles north but a million miles away in the sports world, to Los Angeles, where he promptly won a World Series, the hearts of Dodgers (@Dodgers) fans, and a place in baseball lore forever.
It was, for some, the first taste of baseball, South of the Border style. But for legions of Mexicans and others of Hispanic heritage living in Southern California, Fernandomania was the entry point to really feeling like this team, transplanted just over two decades earlier from Brooklyn, was really theirs.
Partners like Toyota, Telcel, Claro, Marriott, Purina and others are on board, with the league hoping to match the atmosphere, excitement and success they experienced in San Juan.
Things move slowly in the baseball world, but MLB finally came around to hosting games in Mexico some years later (1996). And this weekend, for the first time in nearly two decades (the Padres hosted the Rockies there in 1999 in the only other series there), the Padres and Dodgers will head south to Monterrey for a three-game set in what the league has dubbed the “MLB Mexico Series,” Friday through Sunday at Estadio de Beisbol. The weekend will include Fan Fest in Macroplaza, a series of youth and community initiatives, special kids ‘Play Ball’ event and Little League games, in an effort to involve everyone. And Valenzuela will throw out the first pitch in Friday’s game.
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This, like the Puerto Rico Series last month, is an opportunity to highlight the strong Latino connection to the game. Partners like Toyota, Telcel, Claro, Marriott, Purina and others are on board, with the league hoping to match the atmosphere, excitement and success they experienced in San Juan, when Puerto Rican stars José Berríos of the Twins and Francisco Lindor of the Indians stole the show, each leading his team to a win in the two-game series.
While a second series outside the contiguous U.S. states and Canada in one season may not signal the dawn of full-time baseball in either market, it’s a clear recognition by MLB that embracing its Latino player and fan bases is good for business.
It’s something Fernando and his outsized Dodger fandom could have told you more than a generation ago.